Sleep paralysis can be defined as the temporary inability to move or speak whilst one is either waking up or falling asleep. For many people who have experienced sleep paralysis it can be a frightening and nightmarish experience as the body suddenly feels numb or paralyzed whilst feeling as if a dark or invisible presence has entered your room.
During a state of sleep paralysis, a person may feel the presence of something or someone pressing on top of his/her body. Others have reported hearing noises, humming sounds or even voices whilst in a state of paralysis. Others have felt strange tingling sensations or vibrations on parts of their body whilst some have felt difficulty breathing and out-of-body experiences.
However, is sleep paralysis a psychological condition or is it a result of demonic attack? Are the signs and symptoms of sleep paralysis a result of hallucinations during sleep or is it the work of demons?
The Natural / Scientific Explanation of Sleep Paralysis
Sleep paralysis happens when parts of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occur while you’re awake.
REM is a stage of sleep when the brain is very active and dreams often occur. The body is unable to move, apart from the eyes and muscles used in breathing, possibly to stop you acting out your dreams and hurting yourself.
Therefore when a person suddenly becomes aware during REM sleep that he/she is paralyzed, this may result in a variety of sleep paralysis symptoms as the person attempts to escape the paralysis.
This temporary failure to escape the sleep paralysis can lead to panic, fear and sometimes sleep hallucinations as one attempts to physically wake up and move his/her body.
Therefore it is during the REM stage of sleep when the brain is extremely active and where sleep paralysis may occur in order to prevent one from physically acting out his/her dreams whilst sleeping.
Sleep paralysis has also been linked to stress, sleep deprivation and irregular sleeping patterns. Therefore reducing one’s stress levels and getting enough sleep is important in reducing sleep paralysis. It is also recommended that you do not sleep on your back as you are most likely to experience paralysis whilst lying on your back.
Spiritual Explanation of Sleep Paralysis
The Bible says that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)
There are different cultures that identify sleep paralysis as having a spiritual or demonic cause.
For example, In Cambodian it’s called “khmaoch sângkât” or “the ghost that pushes you down.”
In Thailand, a ghost called “phi am” haunts people when they are half asleep and unable to move.
And in some traditional Chinese cultures it’s called “meng yan” or “ghost oppression”
The devil is able to spiritually attack people whilst they sleep just as much as when they are awake.
However, Ephesians 6:10-11 says “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
If you experience sleep paralysis and you believe the experience to be caused by demons, you can try some of the following things:
1) It is important pray and trust in the Lord to protect you whilst you are sleeping. Therefore meditate on God’s word and pray for God’s protection before you go to bed. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 says “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”
2) Call on the name of Jesus Christ during your sleep paralysis. Remember that every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).
Jesus Christ has the name above all names and demons are known to tremble at the name of Jesus Christ. In fact, in the scriptures, demons are cast out at the name of Jesus.
3) Do not go to bed with anger or unforgiveness in your heart as the devil can take advantage of your mental stress whilst you sleep. Ephesians 4:26-27 says “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.”
4) Do not go to bed with any anxieties in your heart. Instead seek God’s peace by giving all your anxieties and worries to God before you go to sleep. Philippians 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
5) Put on the whole armor of God in your life. Ephesians 6:13-18 says: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”
Therefore whilst it is possible that sleep paralysis can be the result of natural or biological causes, it is also possible that the devil may spiritually attack or oppress people under the guise of sleep paralysis.
So where sleep paralysis is believed to be linked specifically to a demonic attack, it is necessary to rely totally on God during any spiritual attack of any kind. God is the One who fights our battles.